Qatar accuses Saudi Arabia of endorsing IP violations
Qatar’s Minister of Economy and Commerce has made a filing at the World Trade Organization accusing Saudi Arabia of significant and sustained violation of intellectual property rights in broadcasting.
The complaint uses as an example the trials and tribulations of beIN Sports, which we have reported on previously here. Since Saudi Arabia imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions in 2017, Saudi residents have been unable to subscribe to or access beIN Sports, which is the dominant live-sports rights holder in the region (more dominant, in fact, than Sky in the UK).
Quickly beoutQ, a pirate sports broadcaster, appeared, and began broadcasting beIN’s content illegally. It has now been independently verified that beoutQ is of Saudi origin “beyond any doubt”, though Saudi deny this.
The Qatari WTO complaint alleges that Saudi’s refusal to deal with this issue, or in fact allow beIN Sports to deal with the issue in Saudi courts, is a breach of the WTO’s TRIPS agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). Simultaneously but separately beIN Sports has launched a $1billion international arbitration claim against Saudi Arabia.
This issue is not confined to the Middle East either: FIFA, the US Tennis Association, and Tennis Australia (amongst others) have also publicly called for the immediate closure of beoutQ and condemned its actions as flagrant copyright infringement.
We will wait to see how the WTO reacts to being brought in to this dispute, in which it has so far remained mostly neutral.
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